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What do admins want?

By blues is dead in Technology
Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 04:24:43 PM EST
Tags: Round Table (all tags)
Round Table

Right now there is an article in the queue entitled "So you wanna be an IT Grunt?" Through humor, it shows that many admins consider themselves slaves, frequently misunderstoood and terribly mismanaged.

I want to open up a discussion with admins so they finally tell us, the luser/guru, what they want us to know.

I know that programmers have websites where they discuss the fine, abstract points between technology and sociology. There are books on that.

What about admins? Do they hate getting Exchange set up? Should we read Stevens' TCP/IP Illustrated and The Unix System Administration Handbook? This should only take a month or two for good programmers; should companies have a learning vacation for long-term programmers where we read these things?

It drives users nuts because a port can't be opened up on the firewall, or because email does something stupid occasionally. I understand that sysadmins often do bad jobs because of mismanagement. I know that the focus should be on preventative maintenance instead of having them work and work. So I want to know what we can do to help solve this, from our end. Beyond just being polite; what do admins need?


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Do you enjoy sysadminning?
o Yes 54%
o No 5%
o Indifferent 4%
o I'm not a sysadmin! 35%

Votes: 70
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o TCP/IP Illustrated
o The Unix System Administration Handbook
o Also by blues is dead

Display: Sort:
What do admins want? | 55 comments (53 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
This admin wants... (4.51 / 29) (#1)
by miah on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 02:01:48 PM EST

This admin wants a manager that listens, understands half of what I say and doesn't take my doubts and reservations to a new project/plan as being subversive. A manager that understands what morale is and how to positively affect it. Most of my experience entails: The beatings will continue until morale improves.

I want to never hear the words "I need this right now" or "I don't care how long you think it will take, you have 24 hours". We don't give estimates because we like to hear you whine, we give them so you don't wonder if we are working on the issue.

I want to be compensated with at least a thank you card or a lunch purchased for the fifteen hours of overtime I worked while being paid salary. Common courtesy would build bridges.

Most of all, treat me like a human and be one yourself. I just want to do a good job, I like it just as much when things break. And last but not least; realize that some things are the way they are because we had to choose the lesser of two evils. Most of us really do care.

In a word: gratitude.

Religion is not the opiate of the masses. It is the biker grade crystal meth of the masses.
What admins want: (3.12 / 8) (#2)
by ennui on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 02:09:15 PM EST

Sexy dames, and plenty of 'em!

"You can get a lot more done with a kind word and a gun, than with a kind word alone." -- Al Capone
Judging by the economy out there... (3.55 / 9) (#3)
by theboz on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 02:10:28 PM EST

I'd say that most sysadmins just want a job.


What I want from a sysadmin (3.00 / 7) (#5)
by blues is dead on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 02:16:02 PM EST

Is to be comfortable enough to think, to do the best job, to want to come to work.

I don't care about how desperate many sysadmins are. If they work for me, they'll be happy sysadmins, not desperate ones. I need to know how to manage them.

[ Parent ]
Not so much a sysadmin problem (4.14 / 7) (#10)
by theboz on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 02:43:14 PM EST

Sounds like a general personality and work ethic problem to me.

In my previous job I did software development, yet I knew more about some aspects of unix than the sysadmins did. That would be fine, if they were only willing to listen. I think some people's pride get in the way and they would rather cover up a problem they can't fix or do a bad job in order to not admit they don't know something. One of the things that I think makes my bosses happy in the long run is that I will admit that I don't know how to do something up front, but express a willingness to figure it out and ask other people for direction when necessary. Since most sysadmins are more introverted, perhaps they don't want to ask for advice very often.

Take what I say with a grain of salt though, as your sysadmins have a job, and I don't.

[ Parent ]

Expectations... (4.00 / 1) (#39)
by RadiantMatrix on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 03:36:39 AM EST

I think some people's pride get in the way and they would rather cover up a problem they can't fix or do a bad job in order to not admit they don't know something.
Partially, but also realize that many managers don't understand why they pay $50k+ for someone not to know everything. Management needs to understand that there's simply too much to know it all.

No amount of genius can overcome a preoccupation with detail.

[ Parent ]
"What admins want." (3.08 / 12) (#4)
by cetan on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 02:15:16 PM EST

They want hunky Mel Gibson to understand their deepest desires and needs.

Sounds like we have the makings of a blockbuster here! :)

===== cetan www.cetan.com =====
Power. Absolute, if possible. (4.09 / 11) (#6)
by czth on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 02:19:07 PM EST

Just ask the BOFH. 'Nuff said.


Updated BOFH at... (none / 0) (#54)
by sgp on Fri Feb 01, 2002 at 12:01:39 PM EST


There are 10 types of people in the world:
Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

[ Parent ]

One Word (3.91 / 12) (#8)
by MisterQueue on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 02:23:28 PM EST

Communication. Half the time, in my experience, the reason a user can't get out on a port is because we haven't heard anything about it. People groan amongst themselves and (where I work at least) never bother to mention the issues to us. Mismanagement..as you also mentioned, is a problem as well.


Clean, lemony-fresh victory is mine!!

What this sysadmin would like... (4.53 / 26) (#11)
by Janir on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 02:44:12 PM EST

What I would like....

1. When we give you a time/cost estimate, use it. I spent TIME just figuring out the estimate, don't ask for one and throw it out because you don't like the estimate since the work you need from me actually takes time and effort and doesn't happen automagically.

2. When I tell you you can't do something and I
tell you WHY, please DON'T DO IT. If I didn't tell you why I can understand, my fault, but when I explained why several times (and have it documented) please DON'T DO IT.

3. Please realize I have a life outside of the company, just like you. If I have to do work for you, I don't want to do work outside of normal business hours anymore than you do. Don't call up and ask for something 'critical' at 4:30 pm on Friday telling me it needs to be done by Monday morning.

4. If you WANT High Availability (HA) for your application then the SERVER needs to be speced out for HA, which DOES MEAN MORE MONEY. I need time to patch servers and do routine maintenance. If you want the server up 24x7 then I need a server that was designed with HA in mind so I can do the routine work with the server's application still up and running. Yes thats EXPENSIVE, please plan on it or plan on routine downtime for routine work and possible UNPLANNED DOWNTIME for system failures.

5. Tell me what you are trying to accomplish, not what you think you want. Chances are more often than not I can help come up with a better solution for you if I know the problem. I have resources you do not have and am willing to use them to help you out. Its my job definition to help, but I need complete information to do so.

6. There are established communication channels to the sysadmins in most cases. Please use the problem reporting procedures as then cases are tracked, tasks will not be slipped by etc.... If I cannot help, by communicating to the sysadmins thru channels, someone else can most likely help you then by waiting for me.

7. I can't solve every problem for you. I'm sorry but can't. Some things you will just have to live with.

Most sysadmins are really willing to work with their 'clients', but it is a two way street. Please just meet us halfway with simple consideration for the work we have to do to help you and you will find you will get more help than you realize was possible.

What admins want: (4.84 / 32) (#12)
by notafurry on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 02:48:02 PM EST

From Management, what we want is simple.

You don't have to know what TCP/IP does or how it works - we do. You do, however, have to respect and trust us. If we tell you there's a problem, don't insist that we explain the fine points of the issue unless you either A) already know the basics of the affected area or B) are willing to sit for several minutes to several hours.

We want to be appreciated for the things we do. Salary is nice, but frankly, any company can provide that. I want a boss who appreciates it when I drive into the office at 2 AM to get the development servers back online before the developers arrive. Who understands that just because I'm an exempt worker, 15 hours of overtime is not "nothing". Doesn't have to be money - but there should be something.

Finally, one thing most geeks appreciate above all else is a comfortable and fun environment. That means comfortable workstations, high-quality (which does mean high price) keyboards and monitors. You might only look at your monitor when Outlook dings at you, but we stare into them for hours on end. You might type the occaisional memo; we generated the text filling those binders labelled "Runbook" and "Disaster Recovery" and do 95% of our work with the keyboard. It's worth it. Then, of course, there's the toys. We like toys. We don't understand golf. You have your toys, we have ours.

From the users, we want respect. We know more about you than you think; we know how much email you get, we know where you surf during work hours, we know about that stash of MP3s on the department file server. (In fact, we copied it.)

We want you to listen when we tell you to do something. You know how you complain to your friends that your children never listen to you? Yeah. You wanna know why we were laughing so hard when you said that? Think "I love you!" or "I send you this file for advice.".

We want you to think before you do. Sending us email about the email server being down is counterproductive. Tapping us on our shoulders in the coffee room to say that you can't send or receive email is slightly better, but still useless if, in fact, the problem is that your computer won't boot.

We want you to call us instead of trying to fix it yourself. If you could, you would be working for us instead of Marketing.

We want you to admit what you've done. We might snicker, but we won't be nearly as upset as we will be when we eventually figure it out. And we will. Pepsi in the monitor leaves a distinctive signature, and cords do not disconnect themselves. (Usually.)

We want you to use a bit of common sense. When a printer stops working while you're trying to print that critical 500 page report, let us know before you send it to the printer queue fifty more times.

Finally, and most importantly, we want beer. Or possibly caffeine. We saved you. You know it. Without us, you would be out of a job. We don't ask for much; just a little thank you.

Is that so much to ask?

(Well, maybe with the beer. We'll let that one slide. But think about the rest of it, will ya?)

Respect and Trust (3.00 / 2) (#23)
by omegadan on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 08:38:10 PM EST

You don't have to know what TCP/IP does or how it works - we do. You do, however, have to respect and trust us.

Jesus christ is this true. Students at the lab Im a sysadmin at often come to me for help with coding -- one day a PHD candidate needed help with some software he was working on ... His question ? "In C++, how to change what a refrence points to?" To anyone who knows C/C++ you know immediatley that refrences can't be changed, if they could, they'd be pointers. Long story shor he says, "I dont think this is so, otherwise I would have to redesign my program." So I get out our copy of the C++ spec, and *show* him the definition of a refrence. Fucker **STILL** does not believe me and goes on to ask other people.

Religion is a gateway psychosis. - Dave Foley
[ Parent ]

Duh... (4.00 / 1) (#28)
by scanman on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 12:30:55 AM EST

Tell him to pass a reference to a pointer next time...

"[You are] a narrow-minded moron [and] a complete loser." - David Quartz
"scanman: The moron." - ucblockhead
"I prefer the term 'lifeskills impaired'" - Inoshiro

[ Parent ]

IMHO (none / 0) (#52)
by sgp on Fri Feb 01, 2002 at 11:47:04 AM EST

As an ex-sysadmin who now works for a vendor, so works with sysadmins much of the time, I find that there are two kinds of good management:
  • The one listed above - don't know what TCP/IP is, but trusts the sysadmin to make it work
  • The technical manager who really understands why there's a problem with the network, and will translate that into english to everyone else, leaving the sysadmin to get on with fixing the problem, not describing it to users/management/etc

The one thing these disparate types of manager have in common, is that they leave the sysadmin alone to do his job, which is the best thing overall for the sysadmin, his manager, the users, the department, and the company.

There are 10 types of people in the world:
Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

[ Parent ]

REAL Admins (4.00 / 8) (#13)
by jd on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 03:49:23 PM EST

A REAL Admin is never integer, and always occupies 6 bytes.

I'll answer this from both sides.

Admins want users to respect the fact that the admin knows the system. (Users want admins to respect the fact that the user knows the problem the user wants to solve.)

Admins want to be able to set up systems that function correctly, and which will stay functioning correctly. (Users want to be able to use systems that are tolerent of mistakes, and which are simple, where "simple" is defined in terms of that user's abilities and mindset.)

Admins want security and defined responsibility, to prevent unauthorized and/or accidental tampering. (Users want to get things done, directly, without having to chase down every single person who might be responsible for any given piece.)

Admins want the maximum resources achievable, within whatever time/monetary budget they've got. (Users don't care about the flexibility or the potential, they care if they can do what they need to get done.)

Ok, end of the sensible list. Now for the stupidities and expectations:

Admins want users to magically know how to do everything "right", where "right" is what the Admin thinks, even though the Admin has never told anyone, and the Admin may very well be a blithering idiot on whatever the subject is. (Users want Admins to hand over the Keys of Power, the Disks of Knowledge and the Network of Enlightenment, in exchange for the Turkey of Responsibility.)

Admins expect Users to be naive and stupid. (Users expect Admins to be naive and obnoxious.)

Admins want someone (else) to blame. (So do Users.)

You obviously... (none / 0) (#47)
by darthaggie on Thu Jan 31, 2002 at 09:40:09 AM EST

Admins want users to magically know how to do everything "right", where "right" is what the Admin thinks, even though the Admin has never told anyone

You obviously failed to read the email I sent detailing the information you needed to know. You probably filed the email away as "important, I need to read this sometime, but in the mean time I'll ask". And then you wonder why I am an obnoxious bastard...

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

Simple considerations really (4.90 / 20) (#14)
by onyxruby on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 04:12:31 PM EST

I'm here for you, my job is to allow you to do your job. Sometimes that means that I'm your best friend and I'll save your ass, but other times it means I'm not going to give you what you want. It's rather simple, I have resources of X, and need to meet a given demand with those resources. That means I need to use resources carefully for the greatest good for the company, not you, not even your department. That means that the person doing CAD works is going to get my recommendation for a high end system, and the secretary and manager wont.

Please understand that I usually am very busy, and that I need to balance your requests with everyone else's. That may mean that someone sits idle for hours or even days, but I can promise you I'm not doing so for my amusement. Chances are during that time I'm trying to do something like get a machine up that costs $10,000 every hour that it is down. My job is to make these kinds of decisions, and to be honest with people about when and how long these things will take.

Please also understand that I need time to do preventive maintenence. When I am doing preventive maintenence, this does not mean that I am doing busy work. I'm doing this because planned outages are much better than unplanned ones, trust me in that you don't want a server to have an unplanned outage.

Tools to do my job. This is one of the most important things that I need to do my job, which is to keep the company running. If I tell you that I need a Tone probe and tone generator don't try telling me to get the Radio Shack special. Trust me to pick out the tools that I need and approve them without quibble. I should never have a debate with management about what I need something like a hard drive or a cd-rom for. You put me in my position because you trust me to take care of you, in turn you should trust me to get the tools that I need in order to take care of you.

Please understand that I don't mind working overtime when it is needed, I have at times worked up 42 hours in a row because there was need. But do not ask me to work overtime to meet an aribtrary deadline. I will find out that the deadline is arbitrary, because I will follow up with you, right after the deadline to make sure that things are going smoothly. If I find out that you didn't really need it by 3:00 on Thursday, and I put off other people for this, I will be blunt in my refusal to do something like this for you again.

Last but not least, do not allow users to ignore me when I give out virus warnings. I do not send out company wide emails to let people know that marketing has an extra pair of size 10 bright red Woman's pumps, to try to sell Girl Scout cookies or the like. I send out company wide emails because I need everyone to read them. If I have special instructions that are for everyone, that includes even the managers, marketing and sales. I only send these out about once a month or so, so you can assume that your not getting spammed.

And lastly, do not let maintenence ever shut off the power for the entire facility for a three hour maintenence cycle without telling me first so that I can be there. I don't care if it is on a Saturday at 4:30 in the morning, I need to be there for this.

The moon is covered with the results of astronomical odds.

Oooh, I couldn't agree more! (2.00 / 2) (#18)
by miah on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 07:00:07 PM EST

These two points should be highlighted:
Please also understand that I need time to do preventive maintenence.
Things like proper backups and regular audits can be lifesavers. There is also nothing better than having someone around that can check your work and cover your ass!
Last but not least, do not allow users to ignore me when I give out virus warnings.
The sys admin must have a voice of authority and have the ability to recommend intervention by a direct supervisor without excessive questioning. If one user can hose the entire network with ill-mannered actions the admin needs to yank him off of the network post haste.

Religion is not the opiate of the masses. It is the biker grade crystal meth of the masses.
[ Parent ]
Good IT admins need good IT managers (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by haflinger on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 08:22:49 PM EST

I do not send out company wide emails to let people know that marketing has an extra pair of size 10 bright red Woman's pumps, to try to sell Girl Scout cookies or the like. I send out company wide emails because I need everyone to read them. If I have special instructions that are for everyone, that includes even the managers, marketing and sales. I only send these out about once a month or so, so you can assume that your not getting spammed.

An excellent point. However, it points up a corollary as well: If your IT department is sending out, for example, daily voicemails, then it's probably a sign that IT management needs to be replaced.

And yes, I have worked in a place where this was going on. The IT monkeys they had were remarkably brainless. Fortunately, I am no longer there.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

battle scars? (3.50 / 2) (#33)
by senjiro on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 01:41:29 AM EST

... And lastly, do not let maintenence ever shut off the power for the entire facility for a three hour maintenence cycle without telling me first so that I can be there. I don't care if it is on a Saturday at 4:30 in the morning, I need to be there for this.

that doesn't at all sound like something that would actually happen. nope. nor does it sound like it's something that has happened to you. I think you're just making up an arbitrary worst case scenario to support your point. really.

cat /dev/empathy > you

it is by will alone that i set my mind in motion
[ Parent ]
Murphy was toying with me on that one... (4.00 / 1) (#35)
by onyxruby on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 02:15:59 AM EST

I came way too close to that one. I was talking to the maintenence clerk on Friday @ 6:00PM as he and I were the last two people leaving the plant and were locking it up for the weekend. I asked him if he had any big plans for the weekend and he started to complain about having to come into the plant @ 4:30AM Saturday morning to unlock it for the electricians. Since I thought the plant was closed for the weekend, I asked why the electricians were coming in. Then, and only then, did I find out that they were going to switch out a failing power main the next morning. I had plans for that night. *Grumble*

The moon is covered with the results of astronomical odds.
[ Parent ]

(whimper) (2.33 / 6) (#15)
by karb on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 05:46:05 PM EST

I know that programmers have websites where they discuss the fine, abstract points between technology and sociology. There are books on that.

Hey, I'm a programmer. Nobody ever tells me about his stuff.

Seriously, what are some examples of this? I have a new itch.
Who is the geek who would risk his neck for his brother geek?

Hey... (4.00 / 1) (#24)
by blues is dead on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 09:28:36 PM EST


Visit; I know you'll have fun.

[ Parent ]
thanks (none / 0) (#41)
by karb on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 09:42:20 AM EST

Who is the geek who would risk his neck for his brother geek?
[ Parent ]
What an employer wants from you (1.60 / 5) (#16)
by useful on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 05:47:29 PM EST

An employer wants you to provide a service. This seems forgein to many people who take the job because they want to play with technology. An example, I ask for a DVD player for a presentation, you send it to me but dont provide me with a power cord. Just doing what is asked of you isnt enough as an admin, you have to make sure it is usable for the people you implement it for, provide instructions on its use and maintain it.

You need a DVD player? (5.00 / 2) (#21)
by narrowhouse on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 08:04:41 PM EST

Why is it that people assume that if it has an electrical cord then it should be IS's problem? Fax machine broke? Call IS (ignore that tag on the front that tells you who to call for service, the company only pays for that service contract to be nice.) You need powerstrip so you can plug in your radio? Call IS. Put the DVD player on your marketing/sales budget, they are not network devices (network admin, network tech, note the common thread NETWORK). Believe it or not we are not the AV department from high school.

[ Parent ]
From the other side... (4.00 / 1) (#37)
by Fuzzwah on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 02:28:28 AM EST

As an sysadmin I see this from a different side, when I'm given a task I need all the information nesessary. The job tracking system we use at my place of employment is fairly good, the users call the helpdesk the helpdesk consultant places jobs into work queues depending on the type of work needed. I've found that there are great helpdesk consultants who put every single peice of info they think may be helpful to me in the action log. Most of the time I don't need half of it, but having too much info on a problem is better than not enough. Nothing pissed me off more than having to track down info for 30 mins to do a 5 minute job, when this info could have been extracted from the user when they first called the helpdesk. Yes, I have worked on helpdesk in the past and do understand that when there's 50 calls in the queue you want to get through them as quick as possible..... It's a balancing act. If you wanted a dvd player installed and ready for you to use for a presentation, tell me! If you just want the drive, tell me!

The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris
[ Parent ]

What I want more then anything ... (4.15 / 13) (#17)
by omegadan on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 06:06:13 PM EST

Having been employed as a sysadmin for two years now, What I want more then anything;

Is to be left alone so I can do my job ...

I have identified several *types of users* and their relative strenghts and faults.

1) The Thinker: "I was thinking it would be great if we had this..." ... The thinker wants to direct your activities and set you to work on things but dosen't want to *work* on anything -- because he/she is a closet elitest and feels their contribution to the world is their ideas.

2) The Enthusiast: "Dude! Did you hear! Matlab just came out! We have to upgrade from Matlab!" The Enthusiast has to have the newest everything *no matter what*. Often comes up with shoddy reasons that the upgrades *must* be done.

3) The Internet/Emailer/printer: Dosen't care whats going on with the systems as long as he can print, email and surf the internet. I like these guys because they're easy to please. But if your email server goes down -- watch out.

4) The Power User: "Dude, this computer needs more ram bad! I can't run my programs!" The Power User is never satisfied with his machine, no matter how much ram / processor speed / hd space you bestow on him. Usually the reason his machine is jammed up is because you were stupid enuf to allow him to install software -- and hes installed 50 shareware programs with 50 spyware agents and 50 programs in his startup. Power user is often combined with the Enthusiast and occassionaly the Thinker.

5) The Expert: Comes to you for help but dosen't believe you when you or take your advice.

6) The Shy One: Needs help desperatley but is too emberased/shy to ask, you find out they needed something at the end of the quarter when they haven't done any work and your boss comes to asking "why didn't you do such and such for so and so he hasn't been able to do any work for the last X weeks?".

7) The Technot: Considers you to be his/her personal help desk, irregardless of how much of your own work you have to do. Endless questions about inserting images into word, decoding email attachments, mundane things.

8) The Freeloader: "hey, I've got this problem at home, can I bring my machine in?"

9) The Downloader: relatively benign, usually works on his porn/mp3/divx collection, this is usually where your cdrs keep disapearing to.

10) The Get it Done Boss: Gives assignments to other people he *knows* they can't handle, forcing them to come to the most knowledgable person in the lab to help them -- you.

11) The Uber-Hax0r: Knows more then you and probably owns you :)

12) The Gentleman, differs to your wisdom in almost all cases.

these are just a few of the personality types I have encountered ... often they can be paired :) We run a unix and windows shop, and I notice most of these types are the windows users and that unix users are pretty self sufficent -- could this be a trend ?

Blast away if you feel Ive been unfair :)

Religion is a gateway psychosis. - Dave Foley

I dunno about all your types... (4.00 / 1) (#25)
by tzanger on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 10:28:51 PM EST

Personally I consider myself a thinker, get-it-done-boss and uber-haxor. I am also the sr. network admin. I consider it my job to think about how to do something and give general direction to those under me. It is not my job to do the routine maintenance and general work; that is what I have subordinates for.

I know I'm a pain in the ass. When I claim something is possible, I am almost always right, and when I claim something is not possible, I'm not nearly as often right. :-) Fortunately (for me) I rarely claim the latter.

Thinkers are important people. Setting direction and guiding the work leaves me open to think on other projects and retreat to what I sometimes call "the angelic view" -- the place where you are far enough back from the forest to be able to see how big it is and what the best path to approach the entire system is. If need be I can get in and chop wood to clear the path, too, but that is what I consider the work of the actual programmers, scripters and web designers. I am very good at coming up with ideas that have real utility; why bog myself down in all the details? Others are better than me at that.

The get-it-done-boss usually gives the jobs to people to test them. I don't recall ever working for someone who gives jobs to people just to have them handed over to "the man" at the last minute. I do, however, recall bosses who will give a tricky job to someone just to see how they'll go about it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but you always, always learn a lot about the person you're testing.

Well, ueber-hacker. Sometimes I feel like one, sometimes I feel like the PFY. I have earned my stripes, and I'm always earning more. I know a damn lot of things that others don't, and I'm not afraid to show that things are possible/affordable when others say they aren't. (yes I play on both sides of the field.) I've got a stubbronness which has helped me greatly; when I get an idea in my head I make it work, learning whatever is necessary in the process.

My knowledgebase , while not my best example of PHP programming, is the starting point for my ultimate brain suppliment. I think that ultimately it will show that the ueber-hackers are just people who have had a lot of experience, not necessarily the brilliance. I'm opting to record my experiences, not only so others can stand on my shoulders, but so I wouldn't start stooping over in my old age. Now if I only had time... :-/

Anyway I suppose what I was getting at was that your user types, while mostly accurate, didn't properly explain both sides. There are a lot of users out there and each type has its plusses and minuses.

[ Parent ]
Harsh treatment (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by omegadan on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 02:09:51 AM EST

Well, my treatment was purposefully harsh :) But believe me these are personality types I work with every day :) My one bicker I have with your comments is your on the "get the job done boss" ... my boss *actually* does this ... he tells his secretary (who makes 24k a year and has barely mastered word) to "burn me a cd with this junk on it" or "i need a powerpoint presentation in two hours" or sometimes he just asks the plain impossible: "make these changes to the website." or "I need you to convert this latex document to word". Now this is just a bad manager :) He wont allow her to take *free* courses offered by the university (which we're a part of -- all she have to do is walk down the hall) on things like this because "we have people here who can teach you this". Keep in mind the pepole that can teach her that is me and im completley overburdened :)

Religion is a gateway psychosis. - Dave Foley
[ Parent ]

as a recovering sysadmin... (4.00 / 5) (#19)
by blankbox on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 07:52:12 PM EST

money: backup hardware is epensive. UPSes are expensive. Redunencty is expenisve. Windows is expensive. you need to pay for it. buy software that works and does the job. don't buy it from impulse or hype. if you do, explain to my why you need it. i have to be the one that has to fix it so it's important that i know. time: don't interrupt me becuase the internet is broken. more importantly, hire enough people so that if the internet is broken, i can either help fix your internet or have someone else do as long as the more important tasks like backing up data is done. let me have my freaking vacation and time off. the less time i have for myself, the more i become bitter and careless. oh, another teenager broke into one of our unsecure boxes. wish i had mental time to care. i'm too busy not getting enough sleep because i'm always on call. don't make me be on call all the time. roation scheduales are wonderful things. QA your software before your developers put it on my server. yes, you bought it, but i have to defend it so that it is stable, up and consistant. so i take pride in it. don't willfully try to screw it up. Understand that a database admin is different than a sysadmin, MIS duties are different than Ops. don't try to have me replace other people just so you can save money.

whoops... (3.00 / 1) (#20)
by blankbox on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 07:55:33 PM EST

sorry about not formatting... i was too busy trying to stop posting and doing my homework. yes, i notice there was a [preview] button. it was a mistake. i am sorry.

[ Parent ]
my fav (4.50 / 4) (#31)
by senjiro on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 01:34:45 AM EST

...becuase the internet is broken

one of my favorite nails on the chalkboard user question is: "Is the internet down?"

Yes, the entire infrastructure of the internet has come tumbling down around our ears. Millions of wireheads are in catatonic shock. Ecommerce driven economies have thumped to a halt. Thousands are out of work. San Francisco is burning. Wait, wait, no, you just need to reboot.

it is by will alone that i set my mind in motion
[ Parent ]
quiet pagers (4.40 / 5) (#26)
by senjiro on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 10:51:20 PM EST

ultimately, any true sysadmin is on call. that means that we accept the probability of interrupted dates, postponed outings, ruined plans, and vacations that aren't. So i think that when you get down to it, we want whatever makes our pagers and cellphones quiet.

I can break that down a bit.

1. Cashish - While I'm all about ROI and cost effective strategies, if you want me to look you in the eye and promise 5 9's, you better be willing to pay for things. I can't shit hardware, although it's being worked on. In the meantime expect that the redundancy, security, and availability that you keep reading about in EE Times can not be had for $3k.
cheap hardware=beeping pagers

2. Focus - Manage your own damn affairs in such a way that I can more effectively manage time. It is very trying when working on complex projects to be interrupted several times an hour for ID-10-T errors, failure-to-set-client-expectation-related-fire-drills (vis a vis "sure we can just spin that site right up for you"), and 'quick questions' about your home PC.
Lack of focus=beeping pagers

3. Cereal - or toys, or music, or whatever particular neurosis your local sysadmin happens to be into. Some folks have noticed that sysadmins are a rare breed. Admins can often be observed engaging in seemingly childish, distracted, anti-social, or breakfast food consuming ways. Let us do that. Having that can of Potted Meat Food Product on my desk, wearing my linux shirt to work on Friday, or eating a bowl of cereal on the job don't directly equate to quiet pagers, but the mitigate the pain of the times that the pager is noisy. (ok ok, the cereal _can_ directly equate to a quiet pager... a perfectly executed dunking maneuver will generally stop the incessant beep)
Grumpy admins = beeping pagers = Grumpy admins

This really was an excellent topic. Some will vent, some will rant, all will enjoy the opportunity to be heard.

it is by will alone that i set my mind in motion
Hmm... (2.00 / 2) (#27)
by sigwinch on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 12:21:23 AM EST

Having that can of Potted Meat Food Product on my desk, ... don't directly equate to quiet pagers,...
Oh, my. I have a can of Potted Meat Food Product on my desk at work. I am now Officially Weird.

I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

I thought I was bad (2.50 / 2) (#29)
by fluffy grue on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 01:22:31 AM EST

I don't have a can of potted meat food product, but I do use an old Mac Plus as a paperweight (it got promoted from its previous job as a doorstop).
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

beef hearts (2.00 / 2) (#30)
by senjiro on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 01:28:58 AM EST

partially defatted beef fatty tissue, mechanically seperated chicken to name a few!

I'm sorry, I'm just absolutely mesmerized by the descriptions.

How does one partially defat fatty beef?? Why not just go the whole way? I want completely defatted beef fatty tissue.

While we're at it, can I get some seperated chicken over here? not that lousy mechanical kind, i want the exploited worker seperated chicken!

it is by will alone that i set my mind in motion
[ Parent ]
bitter irony (3.66 / 3) (#32)
by senjiro on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 01:37:25 AM EST

15 minutes after posting the above comment, my pager goes off.

one of our clients end users *accidnetally* deleted an entire tree of images needed for a big presentation tomorrow.

I am currently awake at 12:35 a.m. CST, knowing that I have to be awake to go to work at 6 a.m. CST, and restoring this fucking thing from tape.

early retierment, early retirement, early retirement
it is by will alone that i set my mind in motion
[ Parent ]
"Our way" (3.00 / 2) (#48)
by spring on Thu Jan 31, 2002 at 10:17:07 AM EST

After having the "I deleted it accidentally" trick played on us one too many times (along with the corrupt database trick--that's fun too), we started taking our most important directories and copying them elsewhere in the directory tree early each morning. This is in addition to a sensible backup policy, of course, with tapes and offsite storage and so on.

The advantage to this scheme is that when the accidental deletion or database corruption happens and you know about it the same day, you can scoop the right files out of your "yesterday" directory in seconds, rather than spending hours with the chicken heads and goats' blood to get your backup tapes out of storage and mounted and working correctly.

If you can weasle the disk space to do this, I heartily recommend it. It's saved us a lot of hassle over the years.

[ Parent ]
irony v2 (3.00 / 1) (#50)
by senjiro on Thu Jan 31, 2002 at 10:50:32 AM EST

in most of my server environment, i have replication going in addition to backups (yeah, you could say that our experiences are in parallel)... however this particular client sucks up around 12 Gigs. The offer of replication had been extended to them for (of course) a cost, which they declined. "If we lose data it can be restored from tape, right? ok then we don't need replication."

Please see my earlier post that references cheap hardware=noisy pagers. This client was offline for nearly 3 hours for the backup process. They are still uninterested in data replication.


it is by will alone that i set my mind in motion
[ Parent ]
What the sysadmin REALLY wants of you (4.66 / 3) (#36)
by The Dot in Dot Com on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 02:19:00 AM EST

The admin wants you you to USE the trouble ticket system, you ninny user you.

My last boss totally destroyed any sort of progress we were making on this too.

I do not live in France.

Please place a ticket. We will get to you soon. (2.50 / 2) (#49)
by spring on Thu Jan 31, 2002 at 10:27:28 AM EST

"But I just a have a quick question."

"This will just take a second."

"While I've got you on the phone..."

"The ticket will just go to you anyway, though, right?"

"I need this right away."

"We have fifty people down."

[ Parent ]
Please place a ticket. We will get to you soon. (3.00 / 1) (#51)
by Karmakaze on Thu Jan 31, 2002 at 03:42:01 PM EST

"But I have two and three month old tickets in the system that haven't been touched. In fact, the only tickets that have been fixed are the ones we tracked you down personally to ask about."
[ Parent ]
great thread (4.20 / 5) (#38)
by Fuzzwah on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 02:46:38 AM EST

I think people have already covered most of my personal admin's dream list, and what isn't in this thread is definately in the Hackers FAQ For Managers

While agreeing with nearly every other post in this thread, I've just got two to add:

  • Job security - we might be a different kind of employee, but don't keep putting us on 3 month contracts. You're always going to need IT, you're always going to need us.
  • Job satisfaction - when we save the company from a mega disaster it's nice to have it noticed.
  • I love my work, I hate fighting with management to get things done/fixed. It annoys me when getting an extra grand for a server is like getting blood from a stone, but then a manager decides that they really need one of those new colour palm 505's and a ditigal camera.

    Oh yeah, as a final mention.... Yes, having a dual head video card and two monitors makes me more productive.... I can work and refresh K5.org at the same time.

    The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris

    Attention (3.50 / 2) (#40)
    by Nickus on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 08:37:52 AM EST

    What I want is attention. If I send out an email that says "you can do this now" then I don't want someone come into my room and say "can I do this now and how?". I don't know how often I get to hear "I didn't see any email about that".

    Then we have one person at work that loves to send me email that tells me that "service x is down" when I have been warning them for two weeks that on THIS day we will have scheduled downtime.

    If they just would read my emails. I don't send them very often but when I do send them it is very important. ATTENTION!

    Due to budget cuts, light at end of tunnel will be out. --Unknown
    Me too! (none / 0) (#46)
    by darthaggie on Thu Jan 31, 2002 at 09:13:35 AM EST

    Yeah, what he said.

    Also, when lusers ask me about something, would you please listen to my answer?

    I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
    [ Parent ]

    Just some basics (4.33 / 6) (#42)
    by Psyber on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 11:32:06 AM EST

    Know that there is a reason for everything I do. Don't bother to try and figure it out, you may not understand, you may not care, you may not really want to know.

    Don't probe me for hours on why I dismantled that broken hard drive or why I'm spending hours writing and erasing files, it may be for your own protection that you don't know.

    If you see me in a catatonic state LEAVE ME BE! don't come asking me why you cant get your real player working when I am at one with the servers.

    There is a reason why I consume my body weight in caffeine on a daily basis, there is a reason I am wearing the same cloths as yesterday, there is a reason I am eating pop tarts at 3:00 in the afternoon and not replying to your email. If you don't see my face at 9:00 am sharp when you arrive at work don't go whining to my manager that I am not doing my job, the simple fact that the sun rose is proof enough you are wrong.

    If you poke an admin with a stick to elicit a response remember when you remove said stick you brought it on yourself.

    I don't want your password, I didn't ask for your password, if I did it wasn't me. If you ignore this and give me you password one more time I will reset it to "IwIlLnEvErGiVeOuTmYPaSsWoDrDtOaNyBoDyEvErAgAiNiWaSAnID10t" and not allow you to change it.

    It's in the queue, asking about it only moves it further back.

    There is a reason the rubber chicken is missing a head and is nailed to the server room door, don't ask and what ever you do don't touch it.

    Always remember NEVER talk to the pitcher. Leave it to the grunts to signal him at the appropriate time, and never ask about the state of the servers.

    The hammer is a valid troubleshooting tool and that noise you "think" you heard wasn't what you thought it was. Now go about your business and leave me to my work.

    When asked about your ticket number, never begin your response with "I was going to..." the auditory nerve shuts down at that point and the fight or flight instinct kicks in.

    Never touch the LART. Not even as a joke.

    My pager is not a dog whistle. Don't expect my ears to go up every time it beeps.

    Yellow post-its DO constitute a company memo.

    If you receive a virus in your email and have opened it to "inspect" it don't bother to forward it to me. We will all be getting a copy soon enough.

    There is a good chance that you will not understand what is printed on my shirt. Don't strain yourself figuring it out.

    Don't ask me about your email at Wal-Mart. You must have me mistaken for someone else.

    If you do nothing else remember I am not God. I am only a human being filling the billet.

    Why oh why oh why... (none / 0) (#53)
    by sgp on Fri Feb 01, 2002 at 11:53:57 AM EST

    Know that there is a reason for everything I do. Don't bother to try and figure it out, you may not understand, you may not care, you may not really want to know.
    Why don't people get this? Sysadmins don't claim to know everything about marketing just because they sold something on Ebay; why do Marketing think they know everything about high-end Unix servers just because they managed to install AOL on their home PC?

    There are 10 types of people in the world:
    Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

    [ Parent ]

    I just got canned from a job because: (4.75 / 4) (#43)
    by Alarmist on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 12:38:48 PM EST

    Sometimes, even I must admit that I don't know the answer and won't have it soon. If I recommend that we go with outside assistance, we should.

    Case in point: I was an IT department of one. Salesperson got us a job that entailed setting up an old dual PPro-200 with 160 MB as an Exchange server. They wanted all the bells and whistles, and the OS disk they sent us was for Small Business Server.

    Sales knew about this project before Christmas. I was handed the project late, with a lot of pressure, on 11 January. I admitted right away that I knew nothing about Exchange server and that we would need help on this. Management and sales combined to flog me on this. Lots of hours and weekdays sacrificed as I made the usual trial-and-error blunders. No assistance was provided from in-house, though someone who knew Exchange server (but was assigned to a software project) was there and could have helped.

    In short, I was given a project to do something I knew zero about, late, with half of something that might be a spec document from the client, and told to produce a miracle on top of the usual sysadmin duties that come with being the IT department for an ISP.

    This project is still going on. Occasionally I have something to do with it, but I was asked to give my two weeks notice because I lack drive and initiative. I wasn't willing to sacrifice more of my personal time (after having gotten sick enough to break down and get antibiotics to treat a sinus and lung infection) to suddenly become an Exchange genius.

    What I want is for management and everyone else to understand that when you ask someone to drink the Kool-Aid, sometimes they will say no. The company is not my life.

    What a sysadmin wants... (4.88 / 9) (#44)
    by Armaphine on Wed Jan 30, 2002 at 01:12:04 PM EST

    I dream of one day being able to work in the perfect IT area. I dream of having users who possess Clue. A place where all the servers are fast and speedy, where all the cables are still neatly cable tied, and everything is labeled correctly. A place where high speed equipment is on every desktop, and there are always spares in the warehouse, still in the original wrapping.
    And I'd like a horsie and a 60" plasma display while I'm at
    Honestly, I'd like to be able to have users that can remember their password for 48 consecutive hours. I'd like to get my trouble calls from the help desk instead of people grabbing me in the hallways. I'd like to get voice mails that actually leave information like who this is, where their desk is, and something bearing a close resembelance to an actual description of the problem, instead of the normal "Hi, this is Bill. My computer's broken, can you come out here and take a look at it? Thanks, I need this as soon as possible." messages I have grown to loathe. I want to never again see the words "User was in REGEDIT" in a trouble call. I want to be able to talk to a user who doesn't blame everything on the cleaning crew / night shift / boogeyman and can actually tell me what went wrong. I want to have a user tell me the truth about what they did before it crashed, or failing that, to take the installation CD out of the drive before I come to pick up the computer. I want my users to understand that if I say that I don't have a spare $ITEM, that it means I don't have one and there isn't a hell of a lot I can do past that, and that replies to the effect "Well, that's not my problem" will not be appriciated, and the PFY is not always going to be there to step in when I am about to rip you a new asshole. I want the users to remember that, wherever you see those little yellow cords, I reign sumpreme, and I should not be toyed with if you value your computer & network connection at all.

    I want my managers to realize that if I describe something as a god-awful suckfest, that I do not mean that we should order 400 copies of it and make it the corporate standard. I want my managers to exhibit something resembling a backbone. I want my managers to not use the computer department as a political stepping stone. I want my managers to realize that conmputers are tools, not status symbols. I want my managers to realize that I am a computer tech, and a damn good one at that, and that any attempt to slide a quick one past me will be met with angry and swift vengenance.

    Finally, I would like all persons coming into my sphere of influence to realize that you do not fsck with any of my equipment, nor do you fsck with my PFY. Both of these are crucial to my well-being, and both will call down mighty wrath upon you.

    Question authority. Don't ask why, just do it.

    Honest question (none / 0) (#45)
    by QuantumG on Thu Jan 31, 2002 at 08:50:53 AM EST

    why cant you keep the NFS server up? Who's stupid design decision was it to have everyone in the office use the same NFS server anyways? You _are_ aware that every time it goes down we all sit around and bitch about the shoddy admin staff and/or go down the pub for a beer, right?

    Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
    IMHO (none / 0) (#55)
    by sgp on Fri Feb 01, 2002 at 12:07:48 PM EST

    IMHO, NFS is piss poor on Linux (under RedHat 5,6,7, Linux kernel 2.0.36, 2.2.14, 2.2.16, 2.2.18, 2.4.10, 2.4.17) - maybe I've picked the bad kernels, but it crashes the whole machine - be it linux server, linux client, or linux server, Sun client, or Sun server, Linux client.
    Why use the same NFS server? Often because having 10 servers just for NFS, each with their own RAID configuration, etc, is very expensive and overly complex for a simple file-share.

    Steve (just waiting for the slashdotters to flame me!)

    There are 10 types of people in the world:
    Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

    [ Parent ]

    What do admins want? | 55 comments (53 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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